By SEAN BERMINGHAM
Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback, will be featured on GQ magazine’s front cover for their man of the year issue. This will be the second time Kaepernick will be a feature for the publication. The first was in 2013 when he was featured as an outstanding athlete and top-notch quarterback. This time is different. Kaepernick is being featured because he is no longer a professional athlete.
Approximately 90 athletes are signed as quarterbacks in the NFL and Kaepernick is undeniably, hands-down better than 60 of them. It is not his talent that has blackballed him from the National Football League but rather his beliefs. It is because he stood up for what was right and silently protested in support of his convictions that he has been unjustly barred from playing football.
This blackballing from the NFL is being fought by Kaepernick as of October, when he hired Mark Geragos a high profile attorney who has worked with clients like Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder. The quarterback calls out many NFL owners as well as the President, alleging they “entered into an enforced, implied and/or express agreements to specifically deprive” him of employment and that it is his political stance and protests that have kept him from playing, not his ability.
NFL owners and coaches alike deny these claims saying that teams want to win so badly that if they think a player will help them they will pick them up regardless of their personal opinion of that player. It is currently unknown if there is any collusion going on, but one fact is for certain, Kaepernick is still unemployed.
His kneeling during the singing of the national anthem to protest the inequality and specifically the treatment of black people by the police, namely police brutality has led many NFL coaches to take their own stances. In the year that has followed, this message has gotten almost entirely lost amid a storm of political and social reactions to the events of the year.
Initially a silent protest, Kaepernick has finally decided now would be a good time to speak publically about the issues in GQ’s article. One reason for the change is that Kaepernick realizes that President Trump has hijacked his message and used it to attack the NFL and the players. Kaepernick admits that while sometimes effective silence can create a vacuum and people will fill that vacuum with whatever they want unless he fills it first.
In his conversations with GQ Kaepernick talked about some other athletes who used their status to protest. Muhammad Ali was barred from boxing at the peak of his talent because he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam war. Jackie Robinson endured hate, ridicule and abuse to pave the way for black men in baseball.
As a sort of homage to this Kaepernick says little in the article, instead he inspired other supporters of his cause to speak as he himself was photographed in Harlem much the same way Ali was. The famous rapper,J. Cole, wrote in support of Colin and his mission, along with Ava DuVernay a film producer, Camren Perez an activist, Tamika Mallory the national co-chair for the Women’s March, Ameer Hassan Loggins a U.C Berkeley academic and lecturer, and Harry Belafonte an activist, artist, musician, and all around legend, among others. Their statements sandwiched between images of the former professional athlete in the streets of Harlem with his kids that he hopes to make the world better for.
However, not everyone thought that his earning of the title, “Man of the Year” was deserved and while many took to Twitter to discuss it few were as outspoken as Britt McHenry. McHenry, a former ESPN reporter, launched a string of tweets at both Kaepernick and GQ saying that his kneeling a year ago should not earn him the title today.
She argues that J.J. Watt, whose charity fund raised over $37 million, is a more deserving candidate. She called to attention Kaepernick’s mocking of the police with his socks depicting them as pigs, and his wearing of Castro as a fashion statement in Miami as some reasons he should not be given the title.
Others, such as Congresswomen Maxine Waters calls to mind his sacrifice for what he believes in and thinks that people with the courage to do what they think is right regardless of consequences to themselves should be respected and honored.